It's easy to be typecast as a cricketer.
When you have played for any length of time in the same place you start to get a reputation. You are the bowler who is a bunny with the bat. You are a batsman who doesn't even bowl in the nets. Every team has one player like that.
And I guarantee that somewhere deep in their heart, each one of these players wishes he had more skills.
Every batsman wants to be able to bowl bouncers to give back a bit of aggression. Every spinner wishes they could biff revenge sixes over deep midwicket.
So, why not try?
Modern cricket, lead by Twenty20, has given space for players with more "strings to the bow". Who says your lifelong wicketkeeper can't bowl leg spin (a long standing hidden desire of your 'keeping author)?
And as for fielding, well, there is certainly no excuse for being anything but the best fielder on your team.
But where do you start?
Won't your teammates laugh at you when you tell them you want to [insert skill here] seriously?
But they won't laugh when you prove them wrong and become an effective player with your new skill. Here's how to go about it.
Not all skills are created equal to all people, so choose what you want to do carefully.
Sometimes it will be obvious. If you bowl a little part time off spin, you can commit to making it full time instead. Or, you lose your place in the first team as an aging fast bowler so you go into the second team and try your hand at spin instead.
Other times, it will simply be a passion you want to develop. As I mentioned before, I have long dreamed of hanging up the keeping gloves to bowl leg spin. Our club has recently signed a young keeper who has taken my place, making me one step closer to the dream. I really should start working on that googly.
So, pick something.
The research it hard. Use PitchVision Academy as your starting point for advice on every skill going.
Then commit to it for at least 30 days of solid practice. After a month you will find it has become a habit and you will have improved dramatically. Enough to keep you going for another year of hard graft.
Once you have chosen your skill and committed to working on it, find yourself a mentor, or a buddy.
This is most likely someone in your team who has the skills already. If you want to be a spinner, sidle up to the best spinner in your team and tell him or her that you want the number 2 spot. It's a fact that people love to share their knowledge. Take advantage. Tap up as much advice as you can. You might even get a net session or two out of them if they are feeling really generous.
Of course, if there is no one in person you trust to advise, you can always use PitchVision Academy to get a virtual coaching session with some of the best names in cricket.
Play some games
Having a net is good; drills are excellent; But the real test comes with games. Get out there and throw your skill in at the deep end.
This is where games of lesser importance come in handy. Try and play pick up matches, Last Man Stands, friendly games or even drop down a grade to play as a specialist in your new skill.
While playing, you will quickly learn your weak and strong areas. You will develop tactics and mental techniques that will grow your technique. You will gain directly from your experience be it good or, more likely, horrifically bad.
Be prepared for some pain.
The advantage you have is that you have been through this learning process before with your main skill. You remember what it was like to be hopeless and then get better, and then get good and canny. This all means you can speed up the process with your new skill.
It's heartening to know that even if you first over as a leg spinner goes for 27, you won't always be this bad (as long as you stick with it for a month).
Avoid "bits and pieces"
As you develop you will likely be encouraged to work harder on your new skill. But don't forget your other skills too.
The idea here is to become, for example, a batsman who is good enough to be a second spinner. You don't want to become a second spinner who also bats a bit. Always make sure your main skill is your main skill and your other skills are important, but secondary.
In other words, you are no longer a one dimensional specialist, but you are also not a "bits and pieces" cricketer who is average at everything and exceptional at nothing.
That is a difficult balance to maintain, and one you have to be aware of from the moment you begin your mission to level up.
But do it right and you can become a more rounded player or even a reinvented one who gets a second run at cricketing success.
image credit: Sportspics